In this article we discuss the best structural approach for a sales team regardless of its size, big or small. The article also takes you through the importance of proper structuring of a sales team, the various structuring options, and how sales teams determine the performance of any business in an increasingly competitive world.
- 1 INTRODUCTION INTO SALES AND SALES TEAM STRUCTURING
- 2 LINK BETWEEN SALES TEAM FUNCTIONS AND ACTUAL SALES/IMPORTANCE OF A PROPERLY STRUCTURED SALES TEAM
- 3 SALES TEAM STRUCTURING OPTIONS
- 4 STRUCTURING APPROACH FOR AN EFFECTIVE SALES TEAM
- 5 IN BRIEF
INTRODUCTION INTO SALES AND SALES TEAM STRUCTURING
When it comes to time for structuring or restructuring your sales team, leaders ought to be very aware of what specialists they should recruit and, more importantly, under what criteria these intended team members should be brought on board.
Note, structure does not simply imply the outside framework or hierarchy; structure is how the whole sales team fits together and works together to avail the best possible results for the business.
With an excellent approach in structuring your sales team, the results will be excellent delivery in sales, enabling you to get even further ahead in the business world. The question of how to structure a sales team demands that a person take a close look at their current sales team if one was already in place.
At its most basic, structuring an effective sales team entails taking the team through three stages regardless of its size:
- Attract: This is pulling in essential members of your sales team. These are, content creators, creative team, social media managers, among other members of a sales team. Despite the fact that skill set is not what definitively makes a person best suited for a sales team position, it is the best place to start looking. Therefore, ensure that each individual recruited in different functions of the sales team is highly skilled in order to be able to bring the best value the business as well as the consumers.
- Convert: Every individual in this prototype of a sales team is taken through conversion and optimization in the art of lead scoring, nurturing, and customer retention regardless of their designated role in the structure. Attracting the rightfully skilled personnel is only the first step. It is important to ensure that each team member is highly conversant with the purpose and goals of the sales department in order to be able to bring the utmost value to the team, the business, and the consumers. This stage will normally involve some level of training of the recruited personnel in the art and strategies of sales.
- Close: Creating a team that not only does the talk but does the talk; gearing the team members to close on all or most of the opportunities that come your business’s way. Bluntly, this is the purpose of a sales team; to be able to make sales and not just attempt. It is important to ensure that every team member has the capacity and is properly equipped to effect or enable sales in their different functions within the team. A team that is not equipped to close the deal, no matter how well structured, or how vast it may be, will be a liability to the business as opposed to the asset it should be.
More of this will be expounded in subsequent sections of the article.
In any business organization, the sales department is the lifeline. The sales department generates revenue for the organization. Regardless of how much you have perfected the manufacturing or production operation of your businesses, or how up-to-date you are with technology, how properly you are managing your financial goals, how progressive your management techniques may be, or how extensive your business and sales team may be, you have to have an effective sales team or everything else will slowly but gradually begin to become redundant. All other efforts made in the various departments of your business will gradually become frustrated.
Most businesses under-invest in their sales teams, treating their sales departments as though they were an afterthought, to be considered after all the production, distribution, and financial issues have been taken care of.
The best sales teams comprise of carefully selected individuals who are properly structured, passionate, reasonably autonomous, and properly motivated. Well structured sales teams serve clients or consumers interests; they form and maintain strong personal relationships with key consumers in addition to attracting and creating new relationships for your business.
LINK BETWEEN SALES TEAM FUNCTIONS AND ACTUAL SALES/IMPORTANCE OF A PROPERLY STRUCTURED SALES TEAM
This section will describe in detail how sales teams have influence on the sales/revenue made by any business:
To start with, a sales team serves as the Inbound Promoters of a business. The sales team takes up the task of analyzing consumer personas and identifying what entices and interests them. As Inbound Promoters, the sales team proceeds to attract them with elements of their interest by influencing conversion of the business’s goods and services into valuable commodities for consumers. The sales team also nurtures the relationships formed between the business and the consumers and in the process conduct research necessary for the business to identify areas of untapped market; areas in which the business brand can infiltrate and expand.
Expounding on the above point, a sales team acts as the Market Researcher of the business. The sales team gathers and analyzes data, identifies consumers, finds social influencers to liaise with, and closes deals with targeted buyers. For example, a sales team will do the research and make connections with companies or individuals that your organization can draw business from but who are either unaware of your brand or who have no idea that they are in need of your product or service.
Further, the sales team is the Closer of the business. The sales team has been tasked with the primary function of ensuring that the business makes the best sales possible. They do their homework, acting in their Market Researcher capacity, and engage the consumers in conversations that eventuallyenable suitable change in the business and, hence, expand its sales volume and enable it to ultimately reach its goals. The personnel of a well structured sales team are skilled in listening, posing questions, and tactfully subduing consumer objections. In addition to this the personnel build trust with consumers by consistently delivering value directly to the consumers through consultation, education, and occasional project involvement with the consumers.
You are probably thinking that putting together a team that comprises of personnel with the above discussed qualities is an easy enough task. How hard could it be, right? However, consider this; how many individuals are really going to be good at more than one of the above mentioned tasks? For individuals that happen to posses multiple strengths, how many can adequately divide their time between those roles to sufficiently complete the purpose of each? Placing functional specialists in a team is the first step, however it is necessary to make sure that each of the individuals regardless of their particular role are conversant with the overall objectives and roles of the sales team. This way you will have leveraged the skill sets of each team member and incase a team member is unavailable or underdeveloped their role will effectively be supplemented by other team members; hence covering all the bases.
The efficiency of a sales team structure is significantly diminished when there is no such structure implemented; when aspects of the sales team functions are being redundant and not compensated for by other team members. The efficiency of a sales team also diminished when team members have been assigned more tasks than they can effectively divide their time amongst.
Note, it is extremely important not to rely too heavily on one function of the sales team. For example, if your business emphasizes too much on the Inbound Marketing function of your sales team it will be difficult to attract high-profile potential clients such as companies. This is because established companies will rarely spend their time looking for new product or service providers since they already have entrenched solutions and possibly internal departments that are opposed to change.
In that case, a balanced emphasis of functions within your sales team would ensure that the Market Research function is properly executed and hence your business would be better positioned to gain entry and acquire the targeted company as your business’s new client.
Maybe it is time to reconsider your sales team structure along the lines of functionality as opposed to the basic lines of skill set alone. By ensuring that your sales team works as one organically flowing unit that supplements its shortcomings at every turn within itself, your business will be able to connect with its target population, make projected sales, and eventually accomplish its goals.
With so much emphasis on the structure of a sales team, the following section of the article avails a structuring approach that can be adopted for a sales team of any size in order to bring it to its full potential.
SALES TEAM STRUCTURING OPTIONS
There are several structuring options that a business can adopt for its sales team. The suitability of each option differs from organization to organization. These sales team structuring options are described as follows:
A Customer-Centric sales team refers to one that places its primary focus on meeting the needs of the consumers. This sort of sales team enables the business to create the best solutions for consumers as opposed to simply availing the best products or services from the business’s perspective. Customer-Centric sales teams are focused on the product/service packaging, consumer training and education, as well as provision of consultative services to the consumers. This way the consumer’s experience is enriched and hence customer loyalty is achieved.
In order to grow the business, the Customer-Centric sales team constantly searches in untapped markets for new consumers whose needs need to be met. The sales team looks for new ways to constantly increase the business’s market share. In businesses that adopt a Customer-Centric structure for their sales team, marketing and profits are measured in terms of consumers as opposed to products.
Similarly, success is measured by the lifetime value of the business’s consumers. The biggest reward to the business in applying this option is that it is able to nurture and sustain a large base of consumers, which implies higher profits in both the short -run and the long-run.
A Product-Centric sales team is one that places its focus on the products and services that it introduces to the market as opposed to the consumers who purchase those products. Product-Centric sales teams are driven by an urge to develop the product or service they represent.
The advantage of this structuring option is that one can exploit the talents and skills already found within the business without having to look outside of the business at the consumer’s unmet needs. The sales team simply gathers information that it relays to the business and in turn the business invests to have the best product or service; with the best features in the market.
Success for a business that adopts the Product-Centric approach is measured by the portfolio of products or services it presents, the sales volume of those products and services, and the market share that the business holds. Presenting the numerous applications your product or service has is an essential part of your sales pitch, making the Product-Centric approach a potentially effective structure for any sales team.
The downside of having a Product-Centric sales team is that the vision of the business is limited since the outlook is only from the product lens. For this reason a business that applies this option can easily be blindsides from changing its product’s or service’s focus. In addition, the business may be gaining from short term product sales and missing out on the benefits of long-term customer loyalty.
The Geographic Structure is where a sales team is structured and divided to focus on geographical specialties. This option can be useful for understanding markets and meeting consumer needs more thoroughly.
For example, the business can have territories for each one of its sales people or group of sales people; after which those sales people have the mandate to work their individual territories thoroughly and amass the maximum number of sales possible. This structuring option is highly suitable in industries such as telecommunications and advertising.
One strength of this sales team structuring option is that since different areas will possess different demographics, sales will require a different approaches and techniques in order to be successful. As such, the Geographic Structure allows the sales team to hone in on their individual markets through specialization.
Regardless of which sales team structural option one chooses, there are several questions that a business owner ought to consider to aid in their decision. These questions ought to be answered with the utmost consideration; they must just be the determinants of how your business performs.
There are additional options on how you could structure your sales organization as discussed in the following video.
What kind of efforts will be necessary to meet the business’s needs? How many sales personnel will be necessary for the achievement of those goals? Which structural option is the most suitable for handling the particular product or service that the business provides?
STRUCTURING APPROACH FOR AN EFFECTIVE SALES TEAM
The times of the rigid, overly populated, and slow to act business departments have continued to haunt businesses even in a time when there is so much advocacy for agile and adaptive business organizations.
In a time when even small organizations have gained the capacity to reach potential clients in their millions through the internet, the business organizations that are performing the best are those that have been able to market and sell to the clients with the utmost degree of precision and this new dynamic is not going to change any time soon.
These technological changes imply that the best performers are able to attract, serve, and retain a bigger market and, therefore, reap the largest share of that market’s revenue. The key, as discussed above, to effectively attracting potential clients to a business lies significantly on the competence of a business’s sales team.
How are hyper effective organizations such as Google and Valve structuring their sales teams to gain exceptional performance? Here are some of the pointers/approaches in sales team structuring that can ensure that your business’s performance improves remarkably.
Intimately Internalize the Concept of Sales
It may not seem as important but the very first step towards building a properly structured team lies in understanding sales just as intimately as you understand your area of specialty in your business; you should be the best sales person in your business.
What is a sale? A sale, very unambiguously, refers to the act of closing a deal with the consumer. Without understanding and internalizing this concept it will be difficult to make any sales. Ineffective sales persons do nothing but speak but they rarely close deals; they have been termed crocodile sales persons and can be very dangerous for the growth of your business. An effective salesperson understands that sales involve the business and the customer, where a foundation of a relationship is laid first.
When this relationship has been established, the sales person can then commence to inquire the consumer’s needs. If this process is ignored, it is likely that a consumer will feel that the sales person has no interest in their wellbeing and withdraw.
However, ‘sales’ is not just about consumers, on the contrary, sales is something we encounter everyday in business. It is something one does when they approach their partners or investors because even in that context one is selling themselves.
For this reason, it is important to understand sales, develop and cultivate a working sales process even before putting together or restructuring a sales team. Otherwise, how will you be able to oversee the functionality of your sales team?
If your idea of creating an effective sales team is hiring someone else to implement your structure and manage the team for you in your business; it would be advisable to change tact.
You ought to involve yourself very actively in the selling of your product or service, not just to potential investors but also to consumers; do not assume that you are too high up in the hierarchy to get down and dirty with your sales team.
The importance of this involvement when putting together and structuring your sales team is that it enables you to understand the various challenges that your salespeople encounter. This way, once you have recruited and structured the team you are equipped with experience to manage them and help them succeed.
If you do not already have a sales team and/or have not involved yourself actively in the activities of the sales team, you can get a start by practicing how to sell your business product or service by creating your own presentation; it does not have to be too long. All it needs to show is what your business has to offer and why consumers need your product or service. That is, strive to learn how to sell what your business has to offer better than anyone else in the business.
Additionally, every time you encounter consumers, incorporate their interests in your product or service and encourage other sales team members to do the same because it will enable you and your sales team to perform better in future encounters with consumers. Growing this culture will not only enable you to be an excellent sales person, but you will be better positioned to structure and manage your sales team for optimum performance.
Recruiting Growth Inclined Team
Note, just because an individual has been successful in a sales team for a different business or organization, does not translate to great performance in your business’s sales team. Therefore, do not let potential recruits sway your judgment by narrating how good they are as sales personnel.
What is important is to spot the passion in them; a passion for constantly improving and competing at a higher level than they are in. Potential sales team recruits ought to display eagerness to attain greater levels of experience.
In addition to this, the sales persons ought to be most comfortable interacting with consumers and potential consumers, listening to their comments, and receiving constructive criticism. They ought to be persons who are looking forward to receive consumer feedback over and over again in order to facilitate your business with the information necessary for creating a product or service consumers will love.
Shrinking the Hierarchy
After the recruitment has been done, more focus can be laid on the actual framework around the sales team. As opposed to placing focus on creating multiple layers of a management system for the approval or disapproval of tasks within the sales team, each employee can be allowed an increased level of autonomy in their individual roles.
Allowing selected sales personnel to exercise a reasonable level of autonomy will grow their passions, increase their motivation, and gradually enhance their performance. It is very important to skim away at the management hierarchy of your sales team in order to support an increasingly horizontal sales structure that empowers the sales personnel in the performance of their duties.
An example of where one could shrink their hierarchy is when you identify an opportunity to restructure and reduce a managerial layer in the sales team, thereby, lowering the cost of sales without affecting the value of the product or service. This would in turn attract more consumers to the business and substantially boost that business’s performance all around.
All this can be achieved without taking up additional costs or costs incurred in fresh training of personnel.
Focus on Strong Performers
As much as it is important to focus on the all round performance of your sales team, a little bias might be encouraged in terms of placing a little more focus on the strongest performing members of your sales team. For optimum performance of the team, promoting the growth of the best performing sales persons can significantly increase the overall performance of the team.
Hyper performers make up less than 50 percent of the team; these performers produce revenue and value in large amounts and for this reason, you should take some extra time to coach and develop their talents and possibly improve the sales team’s performance even more.
Reconsidering Information Intake and Application
Over half of the information that businesses obtain is of little or no value to them. Because of this, businesses end up missing a lot of information that is most relevant and valuable to their particular line of business. The presence of information ought to be a promotional factor for your business’s sales team as opposed to an inhibiting factor in order to make informed sales judgments.
Therefore, for the sales team you put together, ensure that you pay close attention and control the manner in which sales metrics are managed and used on a daily basis by the members of your sales team.
This will involve cleaning your businesses database and ridding it off duplicates, reinstalling lost and missing information, adding relevant and useful information, and amending incorrect data in order to eliminate the likelihood of acting upon poorly informed decisions for your sales team. As signing a member of the sales team, tasking them with the duty of eliminating information errors in the business’s database system can ensure that there is a constant of valuable and beneficial information for the performance of the sales team’s duties.
So, what is the perfect Sales Team Structure for your business? As much as it is important to structure your sales team for success, it is equally important to carefully consider how the personnel have been structured in order to work fluidly as a team. As a business owner, it will also be extremely important for the success of your sales team to intimately understand sales and actively engage yourself in the activities of your sales team department.
As a business grows, so does the need for additional sales personnel. The common notion would be that the more salespeople you employ the more sales your business will generate. However, remember that without a strict modus operandi of structuring the sales team members, such as the one presented in the discussion above, the expense of running a large-sized sales team may end up overwhelming that team’s value to the business.
As mentioned, the sales team is the lifeline of the business; it gives the business its consumer base. With such a critical role, it is one of the most critical resources that any organization has. Therefore, do not make the grave mistake of assuming that one can grow in their business without promoting growth in the structure and efficiency of their sales team. At the end of the day, efficiency and value should be the primary focus for your sales team.
Even in times of technological advancement and ease of access to a vast population of people, a winning sales team remains the key engine of a business’s growth. A sales team is also a costly resource and creating one and structuring it takes a significant amount of time and effort. Structuring your sales team carefully and evolving the personnel to be able to handle the dynamics of various roles in the team when the need arises and supplementing and complimenting one another where need be, is what will enable your business to rise above its competition and capture a larger portion of the market. How one structures their sales team might just be the difference between a successful organization and an unsuccessful one. Note; structure follows strategy.
Too often, we will place focus solely on market strategies of our businesses and spend our time trying to come up with new and better ones. We train our people in this art but we rarely evaluate our sales team structures; a vital organ of our businesses. Proper structure for a sales team of any size, big or small, can bring about substantial returns to your business without having to make exaggerated investments for that purpose.